Businesses striving to provide shoppers with omnichannel experiences need to find new ways to manage, store, and present product information.

Commerce is changing. For retailers, shoppers now have many ways to make a purchase. A consumer can go to a physical store, to a website, use a mobile app, shop on a marketplace like Amazon, purchase from a chatbot on Facebook, or place an order via Alexa or Google Home.

Business-to-business sellers are experiencing a channel explosion, too, as more purchasing professionals seek alternative ways to buy, including integrated punch-out lists, mobile applications, B2B-specific marketplaces, or a vendor’s ecommerce-enabled website.

To add to this channel complexity, many sellers — business-to-consumer and B2B — are competing on customer experience.

Last year, for example, research firm Gartner surveyed marketers and found that 89 percent believed that customer experience would be the primary way they differentiated their business in 2017.

A Content Distribution Problem

To provide a customer-pleasing, business-differentiating buying experience, each of a seller’s channels — from a website to a mobile app and beyond — must have access to current product information and availability.

Unfortunately, for many companies product content and customer accounts are distributed and duplicated across separate systems or silos.

For those companies, each silo — be it a website or a mobile application — has its own database, schema, and user interface, all of which combine information management, storage, and presentation in that single use. These siloed systems might work fine for a single channel. But in an omnichannel environment, several CMSs effectively distribute, duplicate, and complicate content management.

Current CMSs

Current ecommerce platforms are essentially content management systems. In terms of basic function, there is little difference between one ecommerce CMS and the next.

Manage content. A typical CMS will include a way to interact with the application. This is the administration dashboard or, perhaps more technically, the graphic user interface. This user interface allows non-technical staff to maintain or manage product information, including creating, reading, updating, and deleting content.

Store content. When a user adds a product to Magento’s admin interface, as an example, the product information is stored in a relational database. This database is like a series of interconnected spreadsheets with rows and columns storing various bits and pieces of product data.

Present content. Finally, an ecommerce CMS presents the product information to a shopper in the form of a web page dynamically generated on a web server — with the help of a theme — to include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The current CMS model works well for single channel businesses, such as a website...